A bad tech support call can feel like an endless session at the dentist — except your dentist doesn't put you on hold and make you listen to bad music. Most of us dread making those calls, but there are a few companies that do customer service right.
I had two excellent customer service experiences during the holidays as I broke in my new iPhone 6. A couple of glitches led me to call Apple and DirectNic, the company that hosts my email and personal website. Both did a great job.
Rather than just pat these two companies on the back, I'm sharing seven steps that consumer-focused companies should keep in mind when offering tech support. If they don't deliver, customers should let them know by complaining directly and on social media. It works: Angry and well-publicized complaints about Comcast's customer service recently forced the cable giant to make some changes. Here goes.
1) Be available. My email stopped working on the day before Christmas, probably because I entered a wrong password as I set up my phone. I called DirectNic and got the expected "We're closed for the holidays" recording. I filled out a trouble ticket online and was pleasantly surprised to get an email response in an hour or two telling me that a technician had already fixed the problem. Bravo!
2) Implement a call-back system. Tech support staff are frequently busy, but making customers wait (and wait) on hold is not acceptable. Instead, companies should implement an automated call back system that lets customers choose an option to be called back at some set time in the future.
3) Support staff should be fluent in English. If the support staff caters to English-speaking customers, it should be fluent in the language. This seems obvious and has nothing to do with ugly, anti-foreigner sentiment.
4) Don't get stuck on a script. It makes me crazy when I have to deal with a techie who is obviously going down a checklist that may have nothing to do with my problem. Support reps, many of whom are closely monitored, should listen carefully to what callers say and then be free to use their brains to come up with a solution. Insisting on an endless round of mandated trouble shooting invariably makes a session as excruciating as a root canal, and much less productive.
5) Use screen sharing. When appropriate, techies should be able to access a customer's screen so they can see the details of the problem. Apple and some other companies use screen sharing, and I find that it saves time and frustration for me and the tech on the other end of the call.
6) Make it easy to find a phone number for tech support. I know that tech support calls cost providers a good deal of money, but minimizing those calls by making it hard to find the support phone number is an unacceptable way to reduce costs. Similarly, companies should make it easy to find and read serial numbers on products (no tiny type, please) and other info the tech will need when responding to a support request.
7) Terms of support should be clear. Let the customers know how long they can expect free tech support, as part of a warranty or otherwise, and what their options are after the support expires.